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Jeff Nania on Less is More

Jeff Nania is the author of the Northern Lakes mystery series. You can find out more about him on his website,, or by clicking here, read his last post here, and see his books here.

Democracy has been defined and redefined countless times, often the definition used will be to the best benefit of the speaker.

Abraham Lincoln

On November 19, 1863 at the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Edward Everett gave a two hour speech. The next speaker quietly took the podium and looked out on the simple grave markers loudly proclaiming a story great sadness and loss.  Abraham Lincoln spoke only two hundred seventy-one words, defining his vision of democracy, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from earth.” The Gettysburg Address became one of the most acclaimed speeches of all time. Had he not been murdered one of Lincoln’s greatest tasks would have been to turn battlefields back into farm fields. 

Eighty-three years later, in March of 1946 the booklet, “A History of Wisconsin Deer” was published by the Wisconsin Conservation Department. Ernie Swift, the Assistant Director, is credited for the ninety-six-page bulletin. The publication was not without controversy. The whitetail deer was one of the most controversial and most loved wildlife species in Wisconsin. Swift and his colleagues argued that science should guide management of the whitetail deer herd and the ecosystem. He correctly predicted once the publication was released that there would be a new crop of overnight experts and an increase in demagogues using ten-dollar words followed by legislative action by those seeking to manage our natural resources, as Swift would say, from the seat of their pants down at the capitol. 

Just as Lincoln was clear on who had fought the battles, Swift was clear on who would shoulder the hard work of conservation. Swift’s notation on the title page says, “Dedicated to those rugged citizens who, down through the years had the courage to fight for the preservation of our natural resources.”    

Twenty-two words.

He engaged, people of the land, people that could attest to how land use practices had impacted our forests, prairies, lakes, rivers, and streams. He interviewed many who had firsthand knowledge of how our environment had changed. He brought scientists to the table, not for the sake of science, but for the sake of the land. He and his colleagues feared that loss of connection with our natural resources would certainly lead to society’s downfall.

In a speech to the Conservation Commission he said, “First teach a child the value of work, not regimented play. Teach him that a sunset over a verdant countryside has more intrinsic value than the most costly painting…teach him that bread comes from the soil and not from the store.”

Forty-one words.

In a time where useless oratory often ruled the day, the prestigious members of the Wisconsin Conservation Commission, including William Aberg, GR Rahr and Aldo Leopold chose to send a message on the back cover of the book.

“Democracy is the safest in the hands of a people who love and conserve their out-of-doors.”

Eighteen words.

I think Abe Lincoln would have approved.

As a writer, I hope someday I can say so much in so few words.    

Five hundred seven words.

Jeff Nania

Award-winning author Jeff Nania draws upon careers in law enforcement, conservation, and a passion for our natural resources in his bestselling Northern Lakes Mystery series. Jeff’s narrative non-fiction writing has appeared in Wisconsin Outdoor News, Double Gun Journal, The Outlook, and other publications. Download a free short story and read more of Jeff's writing at, or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Joy Ann Ribar
    Joy Ann Ribar

    I appreciate your words and a reminder of the power of words. Quality over quantity. As a fan of Lincoln and Leopold, I was happy to see their words, too.

    1. Sherrill Joseph
      Sherrill Joseph

      Jeff, I’m constantly watching for teaching points, especially gems like bread coming from soil, not stores. Thanks for your work to benefit nature and, subsequently, us all. (27 words)

  2. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Jeff — Oh, the power of well-chosen words! Thank you for the reminder.

  3. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    The picture books I’m working on for children all have “roots” in the great outdoors. I love all the wisdom in your post. Write on!

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    Donna Rewolinski

    Great post! I envy writers that are clear, concise, yet beautifully descriptive. I equate it to writing a short story or a novel as a poet writes a verse.

    1. GP

      Brilliant post!

  5. Avatar
    John A Hoda

    Thank you for sharing Jeff. I think it was Mark Twain who is quoted as saying. “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.” Your post reminds me of that. It’s a good reminder.

  6. Avatar

    You’re a perfect example of someone who loves nature and loves words. Glad you’re in the fight!

  7. Avatar

    Wonderful sentiment, and one I agree with. An English chef did a program teaching school children about food. The kids didn’t know milk came from a cow.

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